Early runs help Byrd's Tribe fly past A's
Boone, Sizemore homer as starter gets first win since May 3
CLEVELAND -- Paul Byrd has been as astute an observer of the Indians' season as anybody.But even he doesn't have any answers as to why the Tribe has been so mind-bogglingly inconsistent. "It's been a very strange year," Byrd said. It's gotten even stranger on this homestand, which has seen the Indians on both sides of more than a few lopsided final scores. On Wednesday night, they were on the favorable end of an 11-2 result against the A's in front of 20,311 at Jacobs Field. Byrd was on the favorable end, too, as he won for the first time since the last time he faced Oakland, way back on May 3. Explain that one. Byrd's pitching has been noticeably improved over the past month, yet he hadn't notched a victory in that span. Back in the season's first month, when he was walking batters at an unhealthy clip, he put four notches in the win column. "In April, I felt I did a poor job," Byrd said. "In May, I did a lot better, but I just couldn't get it to click. If we scored four or five runs, I gave up four or five. If I pitched great, the kid from Detroit [Justin Verlander, Byrd's opponent in a May 27 loss] pitched even better." At long last, Byrd didn't have those problems in this outing, during which he gave up a pair of runs on eight hits with one walk and four strikeouts. Staked to an early 4-0 lead on a three-run home run from Aaron Boone and a solo shot from Grady Sizemore off A's right-hander Joe Blanton in the second inning, Byrd had wiggle room to attack hitters on both sides of the plate. Through five scoreless innings of work, Byrd allowed just three hits with no walks. By the time he gave up his first run in the sixth, the Tribe was up 6-0. When he gave up his second, in the seventh, the Indians were ahead, 9-1. The offensive onslaught wasn't a major surprise, considering the Indians have scored 100 runs in Byrd's favor over the course of his 12 starts, an average of 8.33 per game. "I'm going to lead the league in run support," Byrd said. "I'll probably get harassed by a lot of people for not having more wins." Boone had been harassing himself in the cages for not showing more power this season. When he sent Blanton's 2-2 pitch careening off the left-field foul pole, it was his first home run since April 19. That was another dichotomy. Boone has been putting up much better numbers at the plate the past month, but he hasn't done much in the extra-base hit department. "It feels like the longest I've gone without hitting a home run," Boone said. "That's been the ironic thing for me. For the better part of a month, I've been hitting better, but I haven't been driving the ball. But I think I found something in my swing [to account for the power outage]." Victor Martinez also might have found a tonic for his recent struggles at the plate. He went 2-for-4 with a two-run single in the fourth and a solo home run in the eighth. "It's more about him getting better pitches to hit," manager Eric Wedge said of Martinez. "He's such a good hitter, and some good hitters try to do too much up there. He needed to go up with more of a simplified approach." Alas, there's nothing simple about the Indians' season. After sweating out a slew of one-run games in 2005, they've been on a seemingly never-ending cycle of blowout wins and losses this year. Count Wedge among those who can't explain it. "It's baseball," Wedge said. "You look for little things that show you you're going in the right direction, little things that show you you're going to be more consistent. We're going to keep plowing through and looking ahead." Byrd said the problems emanate from the inconsistency of the starting pitching staff. That staff has certainly been a major factor, one way or another, for the volatility of this 10-game homestand, which has seen the Indians win by margins of 12-8, 14-2 and, now, 11-2, and lose by counts of 11-0, 10-3 and 14-2. "I keep feeling like we're going to get on a huge roll," Byrd said. "But we'll blow a team out and get blown out the next day." For an Indians team still looking for answers, this series-evening win was, at the least, another opportunity to begin a roll.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.